What if Shidea Lane wasn’t a woman of color?

Ed. note: This post is part of the second round of the Feministing “So You Think You Can Blog” contributor contest (background here). Stay tuned all week as our six finalists take turns turns covering the blog and giving us a sense of their personal contributor style. The winner of the contest and newest member of the Feministing team will be announced next week!

I’m sure most of you have seen the disturbing video clip of Cleveland bus driver, Artis Hughes, engaging in a heated exchange that led to him uppercutting and manhandling 25 year old Shidea N. Lane. Before the facts of this story were even released via police report, the internet was ablaze with “these young, uncontrollable Black girls will never learn” rhetoric. Because of course, young Black girls are notorious for attacking public service workers and they all deserve to be punished with the full force of a martial arts master.

We now know via police report that Shieda Lane is actually a 25 year old woman (which says a lot about what we really think of youth of color) who boarded a bus drunk and did not pay her fare immediately. When confronted by Hughes about the fare, Lane proceeded to “curse him out” (to put it lightly) and he returned the favor. The rest is literally history as the video now has over 2 million views on YouTube.

But I can’t help but wonder how that same scenario would have played out and how we would have responded to it, if Shidea was not a 25 year old Black woman.

If Shidea was a white, 25 year old man, would Artis have badgered him about paying his fare? Maybe not, because drunk, young white men are funny and non threatening. And sure, his embarrassing fumbles might have still been recorded, but we would have only joked about what a great day he must have had prior to boarding the bus. No harm no foul.

And if Shidea was a white woman, drunk and agitated, what de-escalation tactics might have Artis pulled out of his hat to calm her down and diffuse the situation? Would he still have called her a bitch in response to her anger? Or perhaps ma’am? If he chose the latter he would have probably heralded him for being such a great civilian and understanding driver.

What if it was a Black man? How quickly would Artis have followed the proper protocol and contacted authorities when he faced similar resistance? My guess is pretty quickly, and without any comment on what that man’s face looks like. After all, why would he put himself in danger? And would we have blamed him? We all know that you need to bring in the special forces for those kind of problems.

Had Shidea appeared to be wealthy, would there have been any conversation about her having bus fare at all? No not really.

But none of these scenarios were true. At the end of the day, there is a reason Artis Hughes participated in the exchange of insults and disrespect with Shidea Lane; they are the same reasons we cried “JUSTICE!” when she was hit with the might of a gladiator. Those reasons are written all over her body, her dialect, and her dress just as much, if not more, than they are on her actions that day. If we learn nothing else from Shidea Lane, it is that young Black women remain uniquely and simultaneously among the most threatened and the most threatening.

The intersections are real.

Feministing's resident "sexpert", Sesali is a published writer and professional shit talker. She is a queer Black girl, fat girl, and trainer. She was the former Training Director at the United States Student Association and later a member of the Youth Organizing team at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She received her bachelors in Women's and Gender Studies from Depaul University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. A self identified "trap" feminist, and trained with a reproductive justice background, her interests include the intersections of feminism and: pop culture, youth culture, social media, hip hop, girlhood, sexuality, race, gender, and Beyonce. Sesali joined the team in 2010 as one of the winners of our So You Think You Can Blog contest.

is Feministing's resident sexpert and cynic.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/whumpusthing/ Melissa

    I agree that there was likely intersections of gender and race playing into this. However, I have to disagree with the sentence “Maybe not, because drunk, young white men are funny and non threatening. ” I would know personally, they are not always funny and non-threatening. If anything they are more dangerous because they sometimes believe that they can be invincible to trouble due to their privilege. Just a small note.

    • http://feministing.com/members/azure156/ Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

      I’m inclined to agree with you there, they can be threatening and are seldom (intentionally) funny… I think the author was referring to the perceptions of society at large though. Movies about drunk white twentysomethings are usually comedies, about drunk white older people they’re “heartfelt” dramas about the tragedy of alcoholism. I’m not entirely sure I believe such a person would have gotten away with not paying, But I do think the public response to the driver’s way out of line response would have been different.

  • unequivocal

    While Lane’s gender and race undoubtedly play a part both in her treatment by the driver and the internet response, you seem to be making some unwarranted assumptions about how these different events might have played out. I don’t know that it is reasonable to state that white males aren’t likely to be badgered about paying their fares (I’ve never seen anyone skip a fare and not get called on it), that if she was a white woman the bus driver would have used de-escalation tactics (it seems unlikely that someone who is so quick with his fists is inclined at all towards diplomacy), that if Lane had been a black male the bus driver would have followed protocol and contacted authorities (a million YouTube videos of male-on-male violence seem to contradict this as a statistical likelihood), or that if Lane appeared wealthy there would have been no conversation about fare (unless you mean that if she was wealthy she wouldn’t be on the bus, or would have paid the fare without comment).

  • http://feministing.com/members/krystalmyth/ Krystalmyth

    I have to disagree hugely about this as well. Perhaps you don’t ride a lot of busses, but if any male gets on a bus laughing and giggling without paying, they get kicked out. I’ve seen it a lot. Not sure where you’re getting this at all. Not to mentioned, hearing her say “What’s wrong with you, I’m a female” as a defense after the hit really soured this entire ordeal as far as a topic for feminism for me. She stepped up, insulted, spat on and assaulted a state employee while he was sitting down, and in a nonthreatening position, then uses being female as a defense. Not really sure how any of that is tolerable.